Review: The Best Man Holiday

Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun in The Best Man Holiday
Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun in The Best Man Holiday

Can someone hand me a Kleenex?
Rating: ***

What’s amazing about The Best Man Holiday is that it never feels like 14 years. In 1999, The Best Man became a deliverance for the African-American film genre which had been stereotyped as a crime / gangster genre.  The film gave a unique identity and helped launched several other films and genres.

The Best Man Holiday is a family centered tear jerker as it slowly unravels a web of failures, sad faces and ultimately demise that surrounds the group of friends. The prequel’s breakout character, Quentin (Terrence Howard) exhibits all signs of badassery. It’s as if they based his character on How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson. Howard continues to give a good performance but at times you feel the character can be given more responsibilities. In The Best Man Holiday, Howard is still an untapped resource.

Much like the prequel, the sequel never takes Morris Chestnut seriously and reduces him to humour till the time drama is necessary. Chestnut’s Lance Sullivan is a vital character in both films and I’m surprised how he hasn’t been given enough platform to shine.

The friends reunite at the Sullivan’s villa for Christmas. Everyone is living a different life. Their conversations are fresh. There are mentions of Barack Obama and even Robin Thicke (seriously?). But, what hasn’t changed is the hostility between the two best friends – Sullivan and Harper Stewart (Taye DIggs); the spark between Julian (Harold Perrineau) and Shelby (Mellisa De Sousa) and the suspicions of Harper’s wife, Robin (Sanaa Lathan) when she sees him with his old flame, Jordan (Nia Long).

The Best Man Holiday plays it safe and uses tragic elements to get involvement from the audiences. Some may budge, but today’s audiences are not made that way. They are into high concept films where drama is limited to just one scene, with the rest being eye candy entertainment. The Best Man Holiday has its fair share of entertainment. If you don’t find it amusing, it’s because you haven’t invested in these characters. Who wouldn’t?

Review: Prisoners

Hugh Jackman, Prisoners 2013
Hugh Jackman in Prisoners.

Hollywood Dad Goes On A Rampage
Rating: ***

Definition of Hollywood Dad: The paternal character who sets out to find justice on his own through vigilantism and hence falls prey to the law.

Having not seen other critic favourites such as 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, All Is Lost and American Hustle, I come to think if Prisoners could be 2013’s best motion picture. If the 150-minute run-time was trimmed by at least 10-15 minutes, it would have received an extra star or maybe two – the highest honour this blog can offer.

The last mystery film that kept me emotionally charged the way Prisoners did was probably Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer. Both dramas are excellently penned. While the latter was adapted from a novel, Prisoners is an original screenplay.

I can relate to Keller Dover, the character played by Hugh Jackman in this mystery drama. He’s a family man who enjoys deer hunting with his son, whom he grooms to be like himself, just the way his father groomed him to be. “Plan for the best, prepare for the worst” this line of dialogue plays an integral role in the film. Dover finds out that his daughter has been kidnapped, and much like most Hollywood dads, he goes in search for her by following the lead suspect – a young man named Alex Jones, who supposedly has the IQ of a 10-year old.
The lengths he goes to pump the truth out can be compared to the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty. But, that sums up director Denis Villeneuve’s motive. He wants to depict – the lengths any man would go to find his daughter. Classic Hollywood dad!

Halfway through the film, you find yourself rooting for Dover, hoping he is able to extract the truth. That’s when screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski introduces a twist in the tale, which breaks upon you like a guilt trip. Perhaps Mr. Guzikowski was waiting to trap you in all that guilt.

The plot twists confuse you infinitely. This film is worth the conversations you are bound to have afterwards. That’s when you put the pieces together and find out what Prisoners is really about. In fact, the story is never completed. The ending scene is a prime example to this – Detective Loki (what’s with the Asgardian name?) stands in the cold, wondering whether that whistling sound was real or not. Does he find out where the sound came from? Do the characters realize their mistakes? The film ends abruptly leading us to make our own endings.

While Jackman has shown us that he is an entertainer, Prisoners has him displaying something we’ve never seen before. He doesn’t emote the way Wolverine does. He emotes the way a real man would. The melancholy that sweeps him, the abstinence we feel when he’s broken, everything makes him a fine choice for an Oscar nomination.

Jake Gyllenhaal sure seems to have come a long way from Donnie Darko or even Brothers, the forgotten drama that also starred Tobey Maguire. But seriously dude, what’s with that delusional blinking? It’s like you’re on coke all the time.

The picture I painted at the start of this review may be deceptive by now. Do I love or hate this movie? The three-star rating doesn’t mean I’ll watch this movie a thousand times. Prisoners will be a rare watch for me again. Not because it’s average, but because the next time I see it, I’ll view it in a different way, much like the way we all felt about Skyfall or even Inception. The film joins the ranks of other thrillers such as Gone Baby Gone, and even Frozen River, another fine film that starred Melissa Leo, who plays the cocky, yet amusing character in Prisoners.

Prisoners draws a fine line between good and evil. And till the third act, we much like the characters in the film believe that we’re doing the right thing. But, what happens in the end, is an unwashed sin.

Review in 140 words or less: Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down movie still
Dominic Cooper and Colin Farrell in Dead Man Down.

Big Time Neo Noir Wannabe
Rating: ZERO

Dead Man Down is another thriller that tries to be a neo noir. In fact, the film is shot under cloudy skies and flickering light bulbs just to be characterized as an aesthetic neo noir. In fact, the characters behave one-dimensional just to reveal later that it was a setup. In fact, there is a woman who yearns to be identified as a femme fatale. In fact, I was bored at the beginning of this movie.

When watching a film like Dead Man Down, you have to keep some humour handy, so that when the film runs dry, you’ll be well ready to make fun of it. You wait till the end for the film’s best scene and well, you just keep waiting. There are no memorable scenes. That’s the sad reality of today’s cinema.